No Comment — December 7, 2009, 11:15 am

Three Deaths at Gitmo Raise Chilling Questions

On June 10, 2006, the Pentagon announced that three prisoners held at Guantánamo’s Camp Delta had committed suicide. But senior Bush Administration officials quickly went one step further: violating the normal rules of decorum, they unleashed intense verbal abuse against the deceased. Prison commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris said, “This was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us.” Senior Bush State Department official Colleen Graffy called the deaths “a good PR move” and “a tactic to further the jihadi cause.” An investigation was prepared by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that backed up these claims, but it was only released in fragmentary form months later. Were these aggressive comments and an almost incomprehensible NCIS report intentionally obscuring very different facts?

Now an exhaustive study by faculty and students at New Jersey’s Seton Hall University—the eleventh in their authoritative series—takes aim at the NCIS report and concludes that it’s little more than a “cover up.” Professor Mark Denbeaux, who directed the effort, told me in an interview that it was “Gitmo meets Lord of the Flies.” The NCIS report itself showed flagrant violations of Guantánamo’s own operating procedures and presented facts that are impossible to reconcile with its conclusions that the deaths were “suicides” resulting from a “conspiracy” among the three prisoners—one of whom was about to be released and return home. Read the full report here (PDF), and my summary of it and my interview with Denbeaux at the Huffington Post.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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